As always, I have to do a bit of research for these exciting match previews, so I set about learning more on the good people and place of Burgess Hill. Well, with all due respect (i.e. I might be considered rude and/or patronising) it seems to be the kind of place which has risen without a trace. I’m sure it’s very lovely, but it’s just “there”. It was almost easier to find out about Wingate, which doesn’t even exist as a place.
The second most interesting fact I could find out about Burgess Hill was that part of the town is in East Sussex, and part of it is in West Sussex. Which probably says more about me than it does about Burgess Hill. Far and away the most interesting fact was that Holly Willoughby went to school there, an image which I’m sure the nation’s 14 year old schoolboys, alone in their bedrooms with their “thoughts”, would like to be commemorated with a blue plaque. And that’s about it; I suppose on the upside at least it isn’t Whitehawk.
In spite of barely riffling the sands of time, Burgess Hill has sustained a football team since 1882, which is impressive – 65 yrs longer than Tonbridge has managed for a start. For most of those 137 long years the Hillians have occupied various Sussex and Southern County Leagues, with the occasional burst of Cup excitement such as reaching the Quarter Finals of the FA Vase at the turn of (this) century. They were promoted to the Isthmian League Premier Division after winning Southern Division in 2014-15, but have struggled to make much of an impression, rather relying on the misfortune of others to stay up.
A connection between the two clubs in recent times has been Gary Elphick who captained both, but left Burgess Hill at the beginning of February. The mysterious talent of Dan Thompson has also graced both clubs. Of their current players, striker Ben Pope was also marked out as a danger man on his day, but was another who quit the club this month.
This season Burgess Hill occupy their customary lowly league spot, and haven’t won a league match since thumping Lewes 3-0 at the Dripping Pan on New Years Day. However, with Tonbridge in fine form, and looking to do the double over their hosts, this match has banana skin written all over it if the Angels approach the game with any complacency, as Haringey Borough discovered at home a couple of weeks ago. A 2-0 start for Haringey was upended into a 4-2 lead by Burgess Hill, only for two penalties to Haringey in the dying moments of the game (to add to another one earlier) to bring it back to a 4-4 draw in injury time. You’ll have go a long way to find a referee as generous as that to turn a game around, even for the home team (in Tonbridge’s case, you have to go to Worthing, where it happens all the time).
Tonbridge are still unbeaten in 2019 and slugged out a tough 2-1 win away at Wingate and Finchley on Wednesday, once again coming from behind, and jumped the congested midtable to 4th place. Can they keep getting away with being comeback kings or will they come unstuck…..will the Angels heed the warning at the Green Elephants Stadium, or will it go in one ear and right out the other?
Walk out music…..